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William Shakespeare penned the most well-known line in drama and literature in his 1603 play, Hamlet:  To foot platform or not to foot platform: that is the question....

Of course, Hamlet's real musing is about the pain of life and the uncertainty of death:  To be or not to be....  However, I'm sure that if Hamlet was a powerchair user, he'd also have a profound soliloquy weighing the merits of foot platforms versus conventional legrests.    

In recent years, foot platforms - a flip-up footplate that's center-mounted to the powerchair base or seating system - have moved from almost exclusive use on light rehab powerchairs, to use on high-end rehab powerchairs, as well, including tilt and elevating systems.  However, the question remains, why would one choose a foot platform over conventional legrests?

The answer is found within form and function, where the compactness and durability of a center-mount powerchair foot platform lends itself toward environmental and positioning practicalities not found with traditional legrests.

The initial advantage of a center-mount foot platform is within its intrinsic definition - that is, it mounts at the center of the powerchair.  While conventional legrests mount along each outside edge of powerchair seating, a foot platform mounts at the center of the base or seat, eliminating any obtrusive side mounting brackets and legrest tubes that may cause unwanted contact points or inhibit transfers.  

For transfers, a center-mount foot platform flips up against the front of the powerbase, void of components that swing sideways.  When transferring amongst a bed or commode, a flip-up foot platform eliminates the need to remove a conventional legrest on the transfer side, facilitating easier, less cumbersome transfers.  Further, because a center-mount foot platform eliminates all side mounting hardware, many transfers allow the foot platform to remain in its down position, requiring no swing-away or flip-up operations whatsoever.

Toward positioning, a center-mount footplate allows one's feet to sit side-by-side, void of an in-between gap that's typically dictated by conventional legrests.  This positioning ability proves meaningful for those wishing to have their legs close together for aesthetic reasons, as with when wearing shorts or dresses, and gives a "sleeker look" to one's posture.

In everyday use, center-mount foot platforms prove historically less cumbersome and more durable than conventional legrests.  With a center-mount foot platform tucked well within the sides of a powerchair, it's less likely to snag on doorways and other obstacles, increasing a powerchair's overall compactness, and because a center-mount foot platform anchors to a substantial mount, and doesn't extend as a tubular-type leverage arm that may bend upon impacts as with conventional legrests, it's more durable when accidentally bumped during daily use.

A center-mount foot platform, however, isn't for everyone.  If one needs to perform standing pivot transfers, but can't lift one's legs to flip up the center-mount foot platform, conventional swing-away legrests prove easier for transfers.  Also, while there are elevating foot platforms, they elevate one's legs together, so if one requires independent left and right leg elevation, conventional elevating legrests are needed.

For varied applications, center-mount foot platforms are available in a range of configurations.  For standard seating, a foot platform mounts from the powerchair base, itself, usually offering notable height adjustment, as well as some depth adjustment to allow a range of leg angles.  For power seating, including tilt and elevation, a foot platform mounts to the front of the seat, with a bracket behind one's legs, allowing the foot platform to move with the seat during powered functions.   Further, center-mount foot platforms are available in multiple sizes - though some are limited in size based on front caster clearance - and offer such advanced positioning options as calf pads and split angle adjustability, where each foot can be positioned independently.

No, the question of whether to use a foot platform isn't as profound as Hamlet's soliloquy pondering the pain of life and the uncertainty of death; however, such a consideration could improve your powerchair's comfort and functionality.

Published 2/07, Copyright 2007,